This month heralds the much-anticipated release of The Road. This adaptation of the seminal book by Cormac McCarthy certainly has plenty to live up to with the cult following of the novel leading to the usual poor expectations of the movie version. However, it appears that the critics will be silenced as John Hillcoat has successfully recreated the post-apocalyptic world that was so vividly, if sparingly, portrayed by McCarthy.
As the audience follows Man (Viggo Mortensen) and Boy (Kodi Smit-McPhee) on their desperate voyage to reach the ocean and hopefully connect with other survivors of the unmentioned disaster, it is almost possible to feel the filth, cold, desperation and fear. The world created is a grey, lawless, ravaged land of lost souls and lost morals and the man and boy, who are the nameless father and son, struggle on like moths searching for a mythical light.
Although the storyline veers slightly away from the original, it is a pretty true screen adaptation that succeeds in bringing alive the characters and landscapes of the book. Mortensen is such an obvious choice for the role that the part could have been written specifically for him. His dogged determination to save himself and his child from the marauding gangs and the chaos of the ravaged world are so symbolic of every parent’s greatest fears for their offspring that the film works on many levels. At it’s most straightforward it is dramatic thriller but it speaks volumes about the world we live in, the journey we have inadvertently set out on and the resolutions we all hope to achieve in our lives.
This is the kind of film that comes back to haunt you on nights when you can’t sleep but not in a skeleton-in-the-cupboard kind of way. It raises so many questions about morality and humanity that it won’t just entertain you and leave you alone. However, although it is largely a dark indictment of the state of the world, there is also hope; a glimmer of goodness and an overwhelming belief in the strength of human love and the bonds that people create. The man and boy draw on each other’s strengths and compensate for each other’s weaknesses in their combined desire to overcome the horrors of the world and their journey. When all else fails, humans must rely on each other.